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Disasters

Building disaster resilience: The road from Sendai

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
Barely a month has passed since the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction  where the international community agreed on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which will guide global efforts to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risk through 2030. As leaders from our 188 member countries arrive in Washington, D.C., this week for the 2015 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, we have an excellent opportunity to take stock of how to best achieve the ambitious goals set forth in Sendai.

Preparing for disasters saves lives and money

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية
Tropical Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 storm, ripped through the island nation of Vanuatu on March 13 and 14. © UNICEF
Tropical Cyclone Pam hit the island nation of Vanuatu on March 13-14. © UNICEF


SENDAI, Japan Without better preparation for disasters – whether they be earthquakes and tidal waves, extreme weather events, or future pandemics – we put lives and economies at risk. We also have no chance to be the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty.
 
Just a few days ago, the world was again reminded of our vulnerability to disasters, after Tropical Cyclone Pam, one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall, devastated the islands of Vanuatu. Some reports found that as much as 90 percent of the housing in Port Vila was badly damaged.  When the cyclone hit, I was in Sendai for the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which took place only a few days after the fourth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. That quake and subsequent tsunami tragically resulted in more than 15,000 deaths and caused an estimated $300 billion in damage.

Translating words into action: We must build resilience into development

Rachel Kyte's picture
Translating Words into Action


World Bank Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte speaks from the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction underway in Sendai, Japan, about the need for greater investment in resilience. As the conference was taking place, a Category 5 cyclone swept across Vanuatu, leaving destruction in its wake.

The disaster reality that must change

Rachel Kyte's picture
Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu on March 15, 2015. Satellite image via NASA
Cyclone Pam, March 13, 2015. Satellite image via NASA


It’s one of the harsh realities of today. 

Just as representatives from around the globe began to gather in Sendai, Japan, for an international disaster risk conference, authorities in Vanuatu were issuing evacuation alerts with Cyclone Pam intent on a destructive path towards the Pacific island nation.

On the eve of the official opening of the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, three cyclones – including the ferocious Cyclone Pam – were casting a menacing shadow over the Asia Pacific region.

It underscores a simple point. The threats posed by natural disasters are on the rise.

How would your country recover from disaster?

Raja Rehan Arshad's picture
 AusAID


Three days after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake jolted Northern Pakistan, I boarded a helicopter to assist the local government in surveying the incredible destruction of homes and lives. Entire villages had been wiped out, and the area’s mountainous terrain made rescue operations all but impossible in many places. I wondered to myself how my country – or any country – could truly recover from a disaster as earth-shattering as this.  

That concern turned to anxiety as I looked up to see black storm clouds form ahead.  Helicopters that had been in front of us were now turning around. Surely we would turn back, too, but the pilot insisted his skills and experience would carry us through the storm. They did, and that 2005 reconstruction effort in Pakistan became a defining moment in my understanding of recovery.

Over the course of the next decade of disaster and response, I and many others working in this space, came to understand that damage and needs assessments alone are not enough to address recovery and reconstruction. Without an overall recovery strategy and the right institutions to carry it forward, a country’s post-disaster efforts are all too often ad hoc and improvised.
 
We realized that recovery was something to plan for before disasters strike.

Challenging innovators to find new ways to make disaster risk information accessible to all

Alanna Simpson's picture
Mapping damage after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines. GFDRR


Sometimes the impacts of disasters seem difficult to predict, such as when the heavy snow that set off deadly avalanches in Afghanistan this winter also damaged transmission lines, disrupting the flow of electricity imported from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and resulting in power outages in Kabul. Other times the consequences seem almost inevitable, for example the likelihood of a devastating earthquake in the Ganges Basin of India, Nepal and Bangladesh within our lifetime.

There are, however, tools and models that allow us to determine the potential impacts of a disaster before they happen, and provide decision-makers with information they can use to reduce the potential impact.

WorldPop's high-resolution mapping: the first ingredient for success in development projects

Tatiana Peralta Quiros's picture
Follow the author on Twitter: @tatipq
 

 
Modeled 2012 population in Guatemala at a spatial resolution of 100 m2
People are at the center of all development work: whether we act to prevent and address disasters, protect vulnerable communities, finance projects in infrastructure, education or health, our ultimate goal is always to serve people. Being able to identify, understand and locate beneficiaries as accurately as possible is an essential first step in that process, and the only way to make sure we provide services to those who need it most with maximum impact.

Inside the World Bank, the number of people passionate about using spatial data for development speaks to the relevance of spatial datasets in supporting critical decision making. In an effort to use spatial data more strategically, we recently conducted an informal poll among several Bank units and some partner institutions to find out what types of spatial data are most relevant to development professionals.

This survey found that the spatial distribution of the population was a key data layer needed by Bank staff. The results of the survey showed that that while national level data are useful, subnational detail on administrative boundaries, trade & transport infrastructure, population distribution and socio-economic data down to the city level are just as critical to the majority of respondents.

Steps to reducing disaster risk in your country 50% by 2030

Niels Holm-Nielsen's picture

“What would it take to reduce disaster risk in your country by 50 percent by 2030?” This question was posed to a gathering of small island developing states leaders and representatives during the Understanding Risk forum in London in 2014.

At the time, it probably seemed like an overwhelming question. Around US$650 million in international financing is currently available annually to build resilience in small states. However, for many countries, reducing their disaster risk by 50 percent is an attainable goal.

Recent Floods in Malawi Hit the Poorest Areas: What This Implies

Stéphane Hallegatte's picture
 
Malawi flood map 2015


By Stéphane Hallegatte, Mook Bangalore, and Francis Samson Nkoka

Malawi is no stranger to significant flooding. In January 2012, floods affected more than 10,000 people and caused US$3 million worth of damage to households and infrastructure. But this year’s floods are much larger in magnitude, even unprecedented.

Beginning in early January, heavy rains triggered significant flooding in the southern and eastern districts of the country. The districts which experienced the largest impacts include Nsanje and Chikwawa in the south and Phalombe and Zomba in the east. So far, the flooding has affected more than 600,000 people, displaced over 170,000, and damaged agricultural crops covering more than 60,000 hectares.

While aggregate numbers and economic cost indicate the seriousness of the event, it is critical to look at exactly who is affected in the country. We have found that the poorest are on the front line.

Making Research Relevant to Avoid a Megadisaster

Simone Balog's picture
 Earthquakes from Roger Bilham (Science, 2006); Population from Landscan (Oak Ridge Nat. Lab., 2004)
Graphic from Ross Stein (USGS, 2013) and Volkan Sevilgen (Seismicity.net, 2013); Earthquake data from Roger Bilham (Science, 2006); Population data from Landscan (Oak Ridge Nat. Lab., 2004)

Without concerted action, the world will one day see a megadisaster—a disaster resulting in over 1 million casualties.

The forces of population growth and rapid urbanization are dramatically increasing exposure to disaster risk. Over 600 million people, for example, live in the Ganges Basin of India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Due to the meeting of the tectonic plates with the Indian subcontinent shifting under the Eurasian continent, this area is at a large risk of seismic activity. And indeed, the Ganges Basin has seen earthquakes over magnitude 7.0 in the past 500 years, as illustrated by the graphic above.

As practitioners, we can help reduce disaster risk and build resilience to potential catastrophes through smart development practices. These practices, however, require targeted research that can inform which levers to move, and how to move them. Sadly, this kind of research is difficult to come by in the disaster risk management community, and harder still to communicate to those that need it most.

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